Go forward in time to July 2003.
Yesterday we had lunch with my mother, who is off today to visiting my brother in Ensenada. They'll be going to San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, which makes me rather envious. Later, we went to watch 25th Hour, and it was pretty good. Unfortunately, Cinemex decided that this was an "artistic" movie and so they are only showing it in a handful of their theaters — the one nearest to our house is Altavista, with small screens and seats in which you cannot remove the arm-rests.
In the morning we went to a weird architecture/sculpture/photography exhibition of Gordon Matta-Clark at the Museo Rufino Tamayo. Then we headed home and stopped by the park near our house to relax and play with soap bubbles:
I've started reading Peter Shaffer's Equus. The first few pages are superbly intense. I'm glad I got this play back when I was in North Carolina.
Last night we watched Phone Booth, and what a gem it is. I haven't enjoyed a movie so much for a while now.
Ettore told me about the new Olympus DSLR with the four-thirds specification. If this thing catches on, it will be fantastic — no longer will one be held hostage to a particular camera/lens system. I hope the big C and N finally get a clue.
Bread in the Old Spitalfields Market:
If we had known beforehand that we would be able to find such good and cheap-ish food anywhere in London, we wouldn't have eaten downtown at all. Visiting the market was about the most pleasant thing we did during the trip.
We walked around like crazy, but also took good advantage of our visitor's travel card to hop onto the underground and buses without having to pay for a ticket each time. By the end of each day we would come back to the hostel and moan about how we should get more comfortable shoes or lighter backpacks. But it was really fun to walk among a really old city that still feels like the center of the universe.
On the last day of our stay in London we had the firm idea that our flight to Dublin would be at 23:30. So we wandered around leisurely, and at around 7:10 we were having a late lunch and wondering whether we should go to Camden Town. Just for safety we decided to check our tickets, and it turned out that our flight was to be at 8:05. There was no way we could make it to the airport on time; we took the Underground, which took 50 minutes, and we got to the ticket counter by the time our plane was leaving. So after some paperwork we got put on the 9:00 flight. We would have loved to stay in London for many days more.
GUADEC — Dublin
Dublin is a tiny city. It is not as spectacular as London, but it feels a lot friendlier and home-like. On the London -> Dublin flight we chatted with a very friendly pharmacist from Dublin; he gave us recommendations for places to visit and eventually he gave us a ride from the airport to Trinity College. Things started off well.
For some reason people seemed much happier and relaxed during this GUADEC than on the previous ones. It is great to see all the hackers again, especially in a place as beautiful as Trinity College. Also, in Dublin it gets dark even later than in London, so we could do some sightseeing after the conference closed each day.
While making the slides for my talk, Antonio José Sáenz from Isotrol gave me some really good help with OOo Draw; I needed to turn text into curves to intersect it with other polygons and I had no clue of how to do that. It seems that OOo's drawing program has a bit of the same problem as GIMP: you must use the right-click menu a lot to find the interesting operations. I eventually got my slides finished and my talk was a complete disaster. My flicker-free scrolling demo didn't work, so I didn't have anything pretty to show to the audience.
In any case, I'm very happy about having a real presentation program rather than old Magicpoint. Many people at GUADEC did their slides using OOo; it is good to know that even hackers find it usable. For me the main feature is having a real vector drawing program; in the past I would painstakingly make some crappy graphics with the GIMP and then slap them onto the Magicpoint slides, which was highly painful. OOo is the killer application these days.
On Thursday, the day after the conference had ended, Oralia and I went around the city with Rosanna, while Jonathan and the other GNOME Board members had a long meeting. We went to the James Joyce Centre and a few churches, and we caught some interesting sights along the way as well.
On Friday, the flight back to London got in late and we almost missed our plane to Mexico. I have never run so much in an airport before. Our luggage didn't arrive to Mexico until yesterday and we got it delivered to our house today. We were getting impatient to get the heavy things out of the suitcases:
We are back from GUADEC in Dublin!
Before going to Dublin, we spent three and a half days in London. This city is beautiful and rightly proud of itself; it is also ridiculously, scandalously expensive. Our filthy and smelly hostel with shared bathrooms cost about as much per night as a four-star hotel in Mexico City. We stayed in the Piccadilly Hotel, a hostel a block away from Piccadilly Circus. As soon as we opened our bedroom door there was an overpowering smell of stale, unwashed, European-brand armpits. The sliding window was blocked in a way such that it would open up only about eight centimeters, so ventilation was very slow. We left our door open for a while and tried to get in as much air as we could. Eventually the smell subsided, or perhaps it was our sense of smell that did, but the room still felt dirty all over. Still, it was about the cheapest place we could find in London that would not be terribly far away from the city center. A good thing about the hotel is that it gives us something to talk about now that we are back in Mexico; if we had stayed in a shiny five-star, we would have forgotten about it as soon as we left London. Let's say that it had a certain poetic filthiness to it.
Emergency staircase in the Underground (photo by Oralia):
We visited the usual places. The British Museum has fantastic exhibits of imperial rapacity, but at least the innumerable things they brought home are well-preserved. We went around St. Paul's cathedral, the Globe theater, Westminster abbey, the Parliament buildings, etc. etc.
One day we spent a long time in the Cruel and Tender photography exhibition in the Tate Modern gallery. It was very inspiring, in particular the sections by Fazal Sheikh about a Somali refugee camp, and the ones by Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Lee Friedlander. The Garry Winogrand section, however, pissed me off, and it was the one that I most wanted to see. They only brought in a set of pictures about museum parties, which is definitely not Winogrand's best or most interesting work — I expected his busy street photographs that magically click into place. I got a wonderful little book, Walker Evans at Work, which has sets of pictures that he took from several angles and then explains how he chose the best one among them.
Myself at the Tate Modern (photo by Oralia):
Recently I've been interested in the intermediate stages of artistic works; one tends to look and marvel at the finished thing, but never really gets to know how things get created. Along those lines, I found a superb book about how Béla Bartók went from musical sketches to working manuscripts to finished scores, along with his neurotically accurate editing process. One of my favorite pictures by Robert Capa is that of Ernest Hemingway looking at the annotations he had made on a manuscript; it is good to know and to see that artists do not whip off a complete work in one step, but rather go through a process.
We tried not to spend too much money on food so that we could buy books instead. Several people had recommended the Foyles bookstore, four stories plus basement, and it is the best bookstore in which we have ever been. Sadly, they are reorganizing their bookshelves and they had moved all of their sheet music into a warehouse, so I couldn't get any scores there. However, in the end we had to buy a suitcase for the books we got...
One day we were inside a little Internet booth in the street while Oralia checked her mail, and Luis Javier, Venetia and Alexandra ran into us. This was quite a surprise as we had made no plans at all to meet. We arranged to meet the next day in Covent Garden, and after battling the crowds we managed to get into a pub and had a nice time talking; none of us managed to figured out how the British are able to keep their prices so high as well as the pound — things are definitely not worth what they cost there. Alexandra gave us many good tips about places to visit in London, and afterwards each went their own way.
One of the nicest things in London was when we discovered Old Spitalfields Market. We got some delicious bread with a soft, crinkly crust and filled with spinach, and some Italian ewe's milk cheese to go with it; it was a great, quick lunch that was not expensive.
On Saturday we went to see my great aunt Luz María to the hospital. She is one of my grandmother's sisters and has had to go through over 40 operations to remove silicone deposits and dead tissue resulting from the injections she got when she was young, supposedly to make her more voluptuous. It was quite a shock to see her plugged to oxygen tubes and all sorts of machines. She was breathing with great difficulty had no strength at all to move, not even a finger, and she could not speak. I spent a long time talking to her so that she would cheer up a bit. It did her well; at the end of our visit she was a lot more relaxed than when we arrived to the hospital. When I had to leave she managed to turn her eyes towards the door and gave me an expression of, "please don't leave, not just yet".
Yesterday she died in the afternoon. Today we went to her funeral, and it was sad to see the remaining old sisters watch yet another one of themselves be buried — they were about 10 brothers and sisters in total; now that they are all over 80 years old, death has become a frequent and undesired visitor.
#commits on irc.gnome.org is a great thing. I used to read cvs-commits-list a long time ago as it was a great way to keep up with most of GNOME's sub-projects, but then it was just too much mail to read and I stopped paying attention. However, an IRC channel with a steady influx of commit messages is pleasant to read from time to time, e.g. when you check your IRC window.
Chicken thighs. Olive oil. Pepper. Rosemary. Parmesan cheese. Mmmmmmm.
I have been reading George Orwell's the Road to Wigan Pier. The part where he talks about his snobbish school when he was a teenager resounds very loudly with me. Lots of food for thought there.
Yesterday morning we rode to campus and spent some time there. Oralia is having less trouble riding up slopes, which is a good indication that her legs are getting stronger. We went back home through Coyoacán and got our usual fix of strawberry frappe milkshakes.
After freshening up a bit at home, we went downtown to the big electronics marketplace — a very crowded and loud arrangement of ad-hoc stalls and little shops which sell any kind of computer-related paraphernalia. There are some shops there that specialize on laptops; the sketchier ones undoubtedly carry stolen ones, but most appear to be legit. We went to the first store that had replacement parts and got a quote for the keyboard of my Dell laptop. They wanted what sounded like too much money, and I would have to wait for four days before they would actually have it in the store. Out of desperation and general foolery I was about ready to accept the deal, but then Oralia wisely instructed me to look elsewhere.
Intermission: By this time I had mailed the spare parts address of Dell-Mexico several times and gotten no reply. So, fuck them.
So we went to another stall. They seemed to have the keyboard in stock and for a much better price, but I would have had to pay them in advance before they would go to the warehouse to see if they actually had it. On to yet another stall, and they actually had the keyboard right there, and the price was half of what the first sellers were asking. So I bought it on the spot. We went back home as quickly as we could — downtown is impossibly crowded and unpleasant these days due to illegal street vendors who have just taken over the sidewalks to sell their wares.
We took a long, pleasant nap, and then I reassembled my laptop with the new keyboard. It works beautifully except for the right Shift key, which seems to be not fully latched onto the small hinges and so you have to push it down exactly in the middle for it to make contact. I may get the keyboard replaced as this is very annoying when typing rapidly.
It is so pleasant to have a fully-working laptop again. It almost feels like a new one. I installed Red Hat Linux 9 and my old co-workers have done a fantastic job. Everything Just Worked right out of the box.
Today we went to Coyoacán for a quick breakfast and then we went to visit my mother and grandmother. Grandmother is very depressed because Luz María, one of her sisters, is very ill and seemingly has gotten addicted to certain medications.
Back home in the evening; we watched Indochine, which drags along in the first part and becomes much better in the second part, where the conflict actually begins.
It started to rain really hard, by far the hardest downpour of the year, and we went upstairs to the roof of our building to get soaked in the beautiful wet darkness. The rain looked amazing when backlit by the floodlights on the roof, and it was cold. We had fun fooling around in the rain and when it subdued we came back down for a nice, hot shower. This was extremely relaxing.
Go backward in time to May 2003.Federico Mena-Quintero <email@example.com> Tue 2003/Jul/01 17:35:16 CDT